Oh, for “F”s Sake!

With the introduction of the 2016 MacBook Pro line, Apple introduced a number of new features, including an all USB-C port configuration, the Butterfly Keyboard, and the Touch Bar with Touch ID sensor. The Butterfly Keyboard is ok, but I preferred the Magic Keyboard from the iMac. I don’t use many USB peripherals, so USB Dongle Town to convert USB-C to the popular USB-A wasn’t too bad. The Touch ID sensor has been a great addition to the MacBook Pro. However, the Touch Bar has been seen by many Mac users as a so-so addition.

The default Finder Touch Bar configuration on a 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro

The Touch Bar replaced the standard Function Key (F Keys) row that sat above the number row of keys on the standard MacBook Pro keyboard. To be sure, the technology behind the Touch Bar is impressive, featuring a Retina Display with touch input. The whole thing is driven by the secure T1 chip which is running a stripped down version of watchOS.

While I like using the Touch Bar for things like activating Siri, adjusting the brightness and volume controls, and media keys in the Music/iTunes app. In my opinion, the Touch Bar never realized the excitement that Apple had hoped. It is cool, but I can live with out it.

The Touch Bar configuration when holding down the ‘fn’ key on the MacBook Pro keyboard

Meghan, who has a 2019 13-inch MacBook Pro, recently complained to me that her Mac didn’t have the F Keys that her fellow engineering program classmates have on their Windows PCs. In typical Apple fashion where a “clean” design is valued over user functionality, holding down the “fn” key on the MacBook Pro’s keyboard changes the default Mac Touch Bar keys into Windows/Unix-style F Keys.

Constantly pressing the fn key to bring up the F Keys can get old quickly if you are working on an exercise in class or a homework assignment. Fortunately, you can setup a macOS shortcut for the Touch Bar that flips the behavior around. Here’s how to set up a Touch Bar F Key shortcut by application.

Configuring the MacBook Pro Touch Bar To Show Function Keys By Default Per app

The Function Keys Keyboard Shortcuts allows you to toggle the F-Keys on when an app on the right is launch, in this case, Microsoft Excel
  1. Open the Settings app in macOS.
  2. Navigate to or search for the Keyboard control panel.
  3. In Keyboard control panel, click the Shortcuts tab.
  4. On the Shortcuts tab, select Function Keys from the left window pane.
  5. On the Shortcuts tab, click the plus icon to add the app(s) you want to default to the F keys configuration.
  6. Repeat this process for all of the apps you wish to add.
  7. When done, click the red close window button in the top left of the Settings window.

Photos App Rolls Out in Yosemite 10.10.3 Public Beta Seed

Yesterday, Apple released the Mac OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 public beta.  The 10.10.3 public beta also includes the new Apple Photos app for OS X.

If you are currently enrolled in the public beta seed, you will see the new update appear in your Updates tab.

One word of warning: Photos, just like OS X 10.10.3, is pre-release beta software.  That means that there are going to be bugs and you should not install either of these updates on your main, production, Mac that you use daily.  To be a beta tester, you must be prepared to delete everything, applications and data (including family photos).

My recommendation is that you make multiple backups before you install OS X 10.10.3 and Photos on your Mac.  Time Machine, BackBlaze or event a Finder data copy to an external USB hard disk drive or flash drive is a good idea.

The complete list of updates to OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 updates are as follows:

Mac OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 public beta seed can be installed on any Mac that is currently running OS X Yosemite.

Apple Releases Mac OS X Yosemite 10.10.2 Update

Earlier this week, Apple slipped out the latest security and enhancement update for OS X Yosemite.

OS X 10.10.2 includes the following enhancements and fixes:
General content
Resolves an issue that might cause Wi-Fi to disconnect
Resolves an issue that might cause web pages to load slowly
Fixes an issue that could cause Spotlight to load remote email content when this preference is disabled in Mail
Improves audio and video sync when using Bluetooth headphones
Adds the ability to browse iCloud Drive in Time Machine
Improves VoiceOver speech performance
Resolves an issue that could cause VoiceOver to echo characters when entering text on a web page
Addresses an issue that could cause the input method to switch languages unexpectedly
Improves stability and security in Safari
For enterprise customers
Improves performance for browsing DFS shares in the Finder
Fixes an issue where certain Calendar invitations could be displayed at the incorrect time
Fixes an issue for Microsoft Exchange accounts where the organizer of a meeting might not be notified when someone accepts an invitation using Calendar
Addresses an issue where Safari could continually prompt for credentials when accessing a site protected by NTLM authentication
Adds the ability to set “Out of Office” reply dates for Microsoft Exchange accounts in Mail
Security Content
For detailed information about the security content of this update, see Apple security updates.
I’ve been testing a prerelease version of this update for about two weeks now and it is looking pretty good.  The Wi-Fi disconnects had been driving me a little more nuts than usual which was masking the slow web page load issue.  (Huh, why aren’t these pages loading faster?  I’ve rebooted all my networking gear…eye roll.)
This update is available now from the Updates tab in the Mac App Store app.  
It’s always a good idea to plug in your MacBook and backup your Mac before installing any new software like OS upgrades and patches with Apple’s Time Machine or with a third-party solution like the fantastic BackBlaze service.

Looking Forward To My Trip to Yosemite

Earlier this month at Apple’s WWDC developer’s conference, Craig Federighi, introduced us to the future of the Mac OS – OS X 10.10 Yosemite.

Yosemite User Interface

With Yosemite, the Mac user interface remains familiar to long time Mac users and yet, have a clean new look.  Long time and new Mac users will be able to walk up to the Mac and begin using it very quickly.  OS X Mavericks was a nice upgrade from Mountain Lion, but the user interface across all of Apple’s stock apps and icons looked disjointed.  Some icons didn’t change at all, such as Contacts, and then new apps, like iBooks, used the design language from iOS 7, and used the round orange ball with a white book.  Similarly, apps like the aforementioned Contacts and Reminders apps just looked or functioned terribly.

With Yosemite, Apple goes back under the direction of Jony Ive, and created a new cleaner, flatter, less cluttered design language for Mac OS X (1) and I think it looks really fantastic!

Simulated Yosemite screen running on a MacBook Air

Yosemite screen capture from the Apple WWDC ’14 presentation

As you can see from the above images, take from the Apple website, Mac OS X still looks like Mac OS.  All of the interface elements look like they belong together as a whole.  The dock icons take on three clean shapes: round, square, and rectangles.  (They are suggestions, however, developers can use their own icon design, so for example, Office 2011 3D stylized icons are OK in Yosemite.)

And, for the first time in a long time, Apple will be including a sort of theme for OS X.  You can chose from the standard “light” theme which looks much like the stock Mountain Lion and Mavericks theme with it’s translucent or solid white menu bar or the new dark theme which uses a darker menu bar styling.

Softpedia screen captures of Yosemite’s dark mode

I’m really excited to get my hands on the first public beta later this year and install it on my Mac. (2)

Supported Macs

For Yosemite, Apple has elected to keep the current list of compatible Macintosh hardware as it’s predecessor, Mavericks.  Essentially, any Macintosh that has a release date of “Mid 2007” or later will be able to run Yosemite.  Well.  That’s a pretty generous range of hardware and means that my five year old 17-inch MacBook Pro will still be supported and will be able to run Apple’s latest Mac operating system.

Now there will be a catch, as with everything in life.  Not all of Yosemite’s features will be available on every Mac released since mid-2007.  For example, my MacBook Pro won’t support the new Handoff feature in Yosemite.  That’s because my Mac lacks the Bluetooth LE 4.0 hardware.  That may chance by the time Yosemite is released this fall, but you get the idea.  The take away here is that if you want all of the bells and whistles, you had better be running on the current or previous generation of hardware.

At some point, I’ll need to upgrade to a new MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, but for now, there’s no need since my Pro’s hardware is still in great shape.  The question is, will there be a cool feature in Yosemite that requires a hardware upgrade that will push me to buy a new Mac this year?  The answer is probably not, but when the next MacBook Pro or MacBook Air hardware refresh comes around, it will be time to upgrade. (3)

Upgrade Path

Most customers will be installing Yosemite directly over the top of Mavericks or Mountain Lion.  The software will be delivered over the Internet to your Mac via the Mac App Store.  Just download the update installer (which, can take a long while) and you’re off to the races.

For this upgrade though, I’m thinking about doing a clean install of Mac OS X.  Since getting my MacBook Pro, every OS upgrade has been an “over the top” upgrade.  This time around, I want to do some house cleaning, so I’ll be making a backup of my Macintosh HD with Carbon Copy Cloner, and then creating a bootable DVD of the Mac OS X Yosemite installer (a USB flash drive also works), and then erasing my disk and installing Yosemite “cleanly”.

It will be a little bit of extra work, but I think my Mac will run a little bit faster after clearing out the years of left over garbage that can build up over time.

Conclusion

Over all, Yosemite looks like it will be a great upgrade for both customers and OS X software developers alike.  Apple has made a lot of under the hood changes that will benefit everyone.  Customers running on the newest Apple hardware should see all of the new features, while older Macs will enjoy most of the new features, but maybe not all of them.  (Handoff and AirDrop, at the time of this writing, are still not confirmed to work on all the Macs that Yosemite can be installed on.)

For more information on Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite, check out the Apple OS X Yosemite preview website.


Footnotes

(1) Yes, I keep calling “OS X” by it’s old name, “Mac OS X”.  Some old habits die hard and this is no exception for me.  I really don’t care that Apple is trying to make Mac OS X sound more like iOS by dropping “Mac” or “Macintosh” from their desktop operating system’s name.  I’m a Mac guy, the computer is a Macintosh, and so it’s still Mac OS X for me.

(2) OS X Yosemite is still in prerelease software development cycle know as “beta”, which means it’s up and running, but still has lots and lots of bugs in it.  You’re not going to install buggy beta software on your Mac’s primary partition as your everyday OS are you?  I’m not.

(3) I just really, really don’t want to give up the 17-inch display, even if newer Retain MacBook displays have a higher resolution.

MacBook Air To Get The Smallest Of Upgrades

According to 9to5Mac.com, as early as tomorrow, Apple could be rolling out an upgrade to the MacBook Air line of 11 and 13-inch notebooks.

The upgrades are said to only be a slight CPU upgrade to the Intel Core i5 Haswell processors.  These processors require less power than the previous CPUs in last year’s model Airs.

If you’re like me, you are still waiting for the rumored 12-inch model MacBook Air that is suppose to sport a Retina display, an even slimmer chassis, and no longer need a fan.  I’m guessing that model, if it’s real, to be announced at this year’s WWDC conference which gets underway on June 2.

[Via 9to5Mac.com…]

Apple Continues SSL Security Fixes, OS X Patch Coming “Soon”

Apple is continuing their push to deploy patches for their iOS and OS X operating systems to plug a hole in the way their devices handle SSL security.

Late on Friday evening, an update appeared on my third-generation Apple TVs presumably to address the same SSL patch.  After applying the update, both of Apple TVs now show as having OS version 6.0.2 (6646.81.1) installed.

In a statement to the Reuters news agency yesterday, Apple indicated that there would also be an updated made available for desktop and laptop computers running Mac OS X software.

“We are aware of this issue,” said Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller,  “and already have a software fix that will be released very soon.”

The defect in the security software could allow unauthorized access to documents, email, and other personal information stored on iOS devices and Mac OS X computers.  The revelation that these publicly unscheduled software updates shows how serious the SSL software defect really is and how responsive Apple is to ensuring their customer’s safety.

Apple’s second and third-generation Apple TVs run a version of the company’s iOS software.  As previously noted, Apple deployed over-the-air updates to iOS 7.0.6 to current model iPhone, iPad and iPod touch owners, while iPhone 3GS and iPod touch fourth-generation owners received iOS 6.1.6.

There also has been talk that these security vulnerabilities and/or weaknesses had be intentionally left in iOS and Mac OS X as a kind of “back door” for government agencies to use to snoop on American citizens.  I for one believe Apple CEO Tim Cook’s statements from earlier this year when he said that Apple has not worked with U.S. government to compromise the computer security of their customers.  I think the speed at which Apple has made these patches and rolled them out to customers confirms that.

Apple’s latest security patch information can be found on the Apple support website.

[Via Reuters.com…]

Apple Release Updates for Mavericks Mail, iBooks

Yesterday, Apple released an update for their OS X 10.9 Mavericks Mail and iBooks applications.

The update to the Mail application is a welcomed relief to customers who use the Mail appellation with Google’s Gmail email service.  With the introduction of OS X 10.9 Mavericks on Oct. 22, customers have been reporting a number of usability bugs with the Mail application.

iBooks received a minor update to squash a few bugs an to improve stability.

Both updates are available in the Mac OS X App Store’s updates section.